Steps to Cure Disney Dad Syndrome

The term ‘Disney Dad’ may sound endearing, but it is certainly nothing of which to be proud. In fact, while the idea of a Disney Dad may conjure up images of a fun parent who makes wishes come true, truthfully this father figure may cause more harm than good.

According to a guest blog on the National Center for Fathering website by Scott Moore of blog Building a Better Dad, a Disney Dad is a non-custodial father (or mother, in which case you might hear the word Disney Mom or more neutrally, Disney Parent) “who indulges his or her child with gifts and good times during visitation and leaves most or all disciplinary responsibilities to the other parent.”

While the behavior may be well intentioned, the results can be harsh: kids may develop ill feelings toward the custodial parent who enforces rules and disciplines the kids when necessary. Disney Dad syndrome, in turn, can cause a harmful imbalance within the family.

Fortunately for Disney Dads, there are steps they can take to remove this title and start doing the heavy lifting of parenting. If you think the actions above describe you as a non-custodial parent, consider taking the following steps for the sake of your children.

Set Rules and Follow Them

If you are the non-custodial parent, then you most likely only see your children for a few precious moments each week, possibly even solely on weekends. And because of this, you may wish to savor each moment by letting your kids stay up late, eat whatever they want, and generally have a blast

In reality, though, this lack of rules and overall structure may be detrimental to the children, who must get back into a routine when visitation time is over. To remedy this issue, create a list of rules with the custodial parent, and enforce these rules each time the children come over. This will establish a sense of consistency for everyone.

Discourage Favoritism

If you have already established yourself as a Disney Dad, you may hear phrases that highlight you as the fun-loving parent and portray the custodial parent as a harsh disciplinarian. Truthfully though, the other parent is simply doing his or her job as a parent by staying consistent and enforcing rules.

If you catch your children making disparaging remarks during visitation about their other parent, make sure they understand that both parents love them equally, and that discipline is simply a sign of love.

Consider Modifying the Custody Agreement

Ultimately, one of the reasons that you became a Disney Dad in the first place may be because of a signed custody agreement that places you as the non-custodial parent. This is responsible for the limited time you have with your children this week.

If you believe it is in your children’s best interest to spend more time with you, you may submit a petition directly to the court to modify the existing custody agreement. In doing so, you may be able to secure more time with the children. In order for your petition to be a success though, you must include a specific time-sharing plan you would like to enact, as well as why this would be a better plan than the one currently in place.

Speak with an Attorney for Help with Family Law Matters

Don’t be mistaken; Disney Dads are often filled with love for their children and they usually don't intend to be a so-called Disney Parent. By implementing and enforcing rules, working with the custodial parent, and modifying the custody arrangement to see the kids more (if possible), non-custodial parents may leave Disney Dad syndrome behind.

If you need help modifying a custody agreement, or with other family law issues, reach out to us at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. We are proud to serve clients in Washington. Call us at 425-460-0550 or use our online contact form.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
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